Tencent joins great AI rush

Updated 2017-03-29 14:32:12 China Daily/Agencies
“An

An executive from internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd experiences a pilot virtual reality device at an entrepreneurship event in Fuzhou, East China's Fujian province. (Photo/China Daily)

Online giant keen to keep lead in social media and gaming

The days when Chinese internet companies could simply rely on the country's sheer population are over. That's why Tencent Holdings Ltd's Pony Ma is betting on the future of artificial intelligence.

Tencent has assembled more than 250 people for its AI Lab, a fledgling unit intended to work with its most profitable divisions from gaming to social media.

The company aims to teach machines how to better battle human players and strike up meaningful conversations, said Zhang Tong, the newly appointed director of the research unit.

Recently, in Tokyo, Tencent demonstrated an early result of that collaboration, pitting its “Jueyi” against fellow computer players of the classical game “go” in an annual competition. Jueyi-which means “fine art”-won against defending champion DeepZenGo.

China's largest internet companies are investing billions in AI research, hoping to shed a reputation for being fast imitators and break new ground in a blossoming field. With AI set to transform everything from mobile apps to cars, companies like Tencent and Baidu Inc want to pioneer ways to build smarter software and products.

Ma, Tencent's billionaire founder and chairman, has warned that companies that fail to create technology will lose out in future.

“Tencent used to be a product-driven company. Now we want to be a technology-driven company,” Zhang said in an interview.

He wouldn't say how much Tencent was investing but affirmed the company was in it for the long haul. “We've reaped the benefits of a large population, now we need to use technology and AI.”

Best known for messaging service WeChat, Tencent's business encompasses news, entertainment and online games such as League of Legends and Clash of Clans. It's become intertwined with the lives of hundreds of millions of Chinese who use WeChat and QQ to order food, play games and hail taxis. While it employs AI in areas such as news recommendations, infusing the technology into other services could have broad impact.

“Tencent keeps a low profile in investing and developing AI technologies, which mainly concentrate on the fundamental research, covering voice recognition, natural language processing and machine learning. It is exploring the potential application of AI in content, social networking platform and games,” said Zhao Ziming, an analyst at Beijing-based internet consultancy Analysys.

Zhang Zhuo, research director of IDC China said Tencent's layout in AI sector is relatively late compared with its rivals, but it has gradually increased investment accompanied with the joining of Zhang Tong, the new director of its AI Lab.

“The competition among China's internet companies in the field of AI will become fiercer as you can see the recent changes in leadership at Baidu and Tencent,” said Zhang.

He said on one hand, it will have a deep influence on traditional industries. On the other, top talent, international academic institutions and capital will flow into China.

Also in the News

Nicole Kidman Recalls Oscar Glory: Loneliest Time
Showbiz2016/06/16 13:58August 21 2017 04:57:47

Nicole Kidman Recalls Oscar Glory: Loneliest Time

Attending Shanghai International Film Festival, Nicole Kidman talks about her role in "Grace of Monaco".

Labor Day Travel Peak Starts
Also in the News2014/05/01 12:16August 21 2017 04:57:47

Labor Day Travel Peak Starts

Johnny Depp Delivers a Speech 'Evolve the Future' in 'Transcendence'
Also in the News2014/04/18 13:18August 21 2017 04:57:47

Johnny Depp Delivers a Speech 'Evolve the Future' in 'Transcendence'

Hollywood star Johnny Depp's speech in the upcoming new film "Transcendence" has been disclosed on Friday, April 11th.

Most Watched

News:
China World Business Sports Showbiz Audio
Video:
C4 My Chinese Life The Sound Stage China Revealed Showbiz Video Travel Video
Photos:
China World Fun Travel Entertainment Sports
Travel:
Beijing Shanghai Guangzhou
Lifestyle:
Live Music Opera & Classical Movies Traditional Shows Exhibitions
Learn Chinese:
Chinese Studio Living Chinese Everyday Chinese Just For Fun Chinese Culture Buzzwords